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This is what it means to be a freelancer (that no one else will ever understand)

In This Article

Walk into any business, and you can almost instantly spot the owner.

It’s not always their clothes, either. Some dress with more authority, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes they’re the ones in the tie-dye and sandals. And age doesn’t give it away either, as they’re usually not the oldest in the room.

How can you almost always instantly spot the owner?

What is it? Because if it’s not the clothes or the age, it has to be something else. Maybe something less…tangible.

And then you start to see it:

There’s something “heavier” about the owner.

There’s a certain “gravity” to their presence. As the employees clean this or take care of that you can tell their minds are far away, thinking about what they’ll do when their shifts end.

But the owner is right here. She’s more centered. She’s tethered to this place, as if her feet were glued to the floor. It’s like every detail of the place is an extension of her.

And it makes sense. She’s the one who has to keep the business alive. She’s the one who pays the bills and brings in the customers. She’s the one who writes the salary checks, who makes sure the building is up to code and the product is up to snuff and the customers are happy and coming back.

She’s the blood in its veins, the one who bears it all.

That is the big difference: responsibility. The employees are responsible for tasks. The owner is responsible for people, including herself.

Because when you’re an entrepreneur, suddenly your well-being – and the well-being of others – falls on your shoulders.

It is all up to you. You can’t point a finger at Jim in Accounting or Meredith in Project Management. You go out and make stuff happen or nothing does.

That weight plants you more firmly on the ground, which accounts for that intangible sense of gravity. It keeps your business in your thoughts, keeps you “glued to the floor,” even when you’re on vacation.

Slack off for a week at a desk job, and your checks will still come. Other people will keep the company alive. You can take a break here and there; no one will notice and everything will be alright.

Slack off for a week in your own business, and everyone will notice, because it could be the difference between eating and not.

As an employee, businesses feel so stable. There are tiers of management and infrastructure and all that. There’s a feeling of safety and security. The moment you cross the threshold and start your own, you realize how fragile they all really are. They’re all speeding through a curvy mountain pass, right along the edge.

Not everyone can handle that pressure. It weighs on you morning and night. The earth’s gravity suddenly doubles.

But remember this:

It took us years as infants to get used to regular gravity. It took us months to even stand up at all.

Entrepreneurship is the same way. At first you will feel like a rocket that just took off. The rush and the exhilaration will push you like no other. And then, the responsibility and the pressure will start to weigh on you. It will be hard at times, impossible even, but you’ll learn to live with it, and to stand tall anyway.

And then, after that, you’ll learn to love it.

Because when everything falls on your shoulders, and every battle is determined by you…

It feels so darn good to win one.

The world is constantly telling us that we can’t. It’s telling us to take the easy road and do what everyone else is doing. It’s telling you not to risk it, because “what if…” Being an entrepreneur is scary, risky business. But it’s also a middle finger right in the face of limits, of “should” and “shouldn’t,” “can” and “can’t,” “supposed to” and “not supposed to.”

It’s being living proof that it can be done, that there’s more to the world than what you’re told. That you really can follow your heart in this life.

And that feels amazing.

When you share your story with others, they will question their own lives, and think about their choices a little more deeply. You might even inspire some to follow their dreams, too.

And then, months or years from now, when you look around at your life, and you’re providing for yourself and your family all from your own blood, sweat, and tears… you’re helping people, making their lives better and yours too – and all from that impossible risk you took, all from bearing the “double gravity” and smiling anyway, you’ll look around and think:

“Holy cow. I did this.”

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Written by David Tendrich

Staff at

David Tendrich is the co-head of creative agency Unexpected Ways, as well as the co-founder of Reliable PSD: the first-ever PSD to HTML & PSD to Wordpress service run by designers, for designers. He co-runs his companies from Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife and biz partner, Lou Levit.

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  1. I feel so empowered! Thank you so much for this article. It spoke to right to my mind and heart.

  2. Klangwelt says:

    Great article! But I think it’s tailored more towards business owners than freelancers. Freelancers are usually solo entrepreneurs.

  3. Wow! your article really touched me. I never thought a Millo post could bring me to tears but it feels incredibly good to see that I’m not alone to live with that presure on the shoulders. I’m a solo entrepreneur and have my family counting on me.

    Thank you David very touching and inspiring.

  4. Lou Levit says:

    Almost brought me to tears. It’s been a honor and a blessing to share this journey with you.

  5. PaulaSpagnuolo says:

    Great post! Reading this helps to affirm for me that the ups and downs I feel are normal for anyone trying to make it on their own. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Lotta downs. Sometimes you get an up. It’s worth more than all the downs.


      Thanks for sharing, Paula.


      1. David Tendrich says:

        Edit: After a while “ups” are a lot more frequent though 🙂

  6. Mike Brown says:

    “Because when everything falls on your shoulders, and every battle is determined by you…” I couldnt agree any more with this statement! Its always inspiring to see things in a new light

    1. David Tendrich says:

      So difficult, yet so rewarding.

      Thanks for your comment, Mike 🙂

  7. April Greer says:

    Perfect way to start out the year, David! Thanks for a great inspirational post to start 2015.

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Thanks, April 🙂 Glad you felt inspired.

  8. Oren Hatum says:

    Thank you for this post! Awesome reminder first thing in the morning. Well done mate.

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Thanks, Oren 🙂

  9. Wow, this is so insightful and true. I have saved 2 quotable lines from this article (of course with credit.)

    That is the big difference: responsibility. The employees are responsible for tasks. The owner is responsible for people, including herself.
    January 14, 2015 by David Tendrich

    Slack off for a week in your own business, and everyone will notice, because it could be the difference between eating and not. January 14, 2015 by David Tendrich

    These two lines define ownership. In a small business, when you are working day and night it is hard to define what we do actually most of us probably don’t think about it, we are too busy doing. Employees often think they are in control and the business couldn’t survive without them. Owners have it easy and thats why the government has painted business as bad, controlling, selfish group of money hungry cheats and prevaricators. Just because we work tirelessly and endlessly, providing jobs and product or service means we didn’t really build the business and we don’t deserve to make money. Business owners are not the bad guys! Why do what we do? Cause its just who we are. Fortunately I have a wonderful group of people working for my husband and self who are actually enjoy working together. We are so fortunate, but that doesn’t mean that in 30 years of business we haven’t had to sacrifice to keep the doors open.

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Not gonna lie, that feels pretty awesome to see those words isolated a quotes 🙂 I think that’s a first for me.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I agree, I think business owners have gotten a bad rap, but there are also some pretty scummy ones out there who have made the rest of us look bad.

      But for those of us trying to do good, until someone has crossed the threshold and felt that weight on their shoulders… they’ll never truly know what you go through.


  10. Evona Niewiadomska says:

    Wow – Thank you so much! This resonates completely and not only that but as a solopreneur it’s ALWAYS comforting to hear that I’m not the only one. Also, thank you for using SHE! It’s refreshing as a woman entrepreneur to read an article about entrepreneurship and business and reading it from MY point of view for once, instead of putting myself in a man’s shoes – it made it all that much more rewarding to read.

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Evona. I try to use “she” in places as much as I can, I couldn’t agree more. Glad it made this post more enjoyable for you 🙂 I will be sure to keep on doing that.


  11. julie holloway says:

    Absolutely love, love this article. #goosebumps

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Julie thanks so much. I had goose bumps as I was writing it 🙂

  12. That’s some of the most motivating lines I have yet read this early year.
    This speech can truly change minds or encourage others. I’ve felt empowered as I was reading.

    Really good approach!

    1. David Tendrich says:

      Juan, truly touched by your words my man. Thank you for sharing.